Friday, December 2, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 2: A Terrifying "What If?"

It's day two and it is cold!  I mean really, the entire building feels like an ice box because of the poor insulation between inside and outside (its mostly glass and cinder blocks between me and the cold outside).  I suppose it doesn't help that I'm wearing a short sleeved polo today, but that's what we're supposed to wear on Fridays (it's Spirit Friday and we have to wear school colors or staff shirts...this happens to be both).  One saving grace of today is that it is Friday and thus, tomorrow I get to sleep in.  Yay!  I have been craving a lazy morning since Monday (darn you Thanksgiving break...giving me a tantalizing break from early mornings and then snatching it away) so this is much needed.  I even have some plans for the weekend too, such as lunching with a friend, seeing a movie, possibly heading to Columbus for Holiday Hop, and doing my Christmas shopping (including shopping for my Secret Santa person, for which I had a fabulous theme idea for last night that I shan't reveal here...lest I be found out!).  Speaking of Santa, I watched an truly interesting film last night about Santa Claus.  No, I don't mean the jolly red-clad elf we all know from the Coca-Cola box...I mean the REAL Santa, the one who was hidden away in the ice for millenia to stop him from murdering children.  You never heard that story?  I hadn't either before I viewed last night's film, a film which reminded me of equal parts Gremlins and The Thing.  I know Christmas horror isn't the most popular of things to write about, and yet I love it because it gives us a break from the usual heartfelt and warm Christmas movies.  Will this be one you enjoy?  Let's find out as we examine Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

The film begins 24 days until Christmas and follows a group of British scientists whose leader has demanded that they drill into the ice in Finland and dig out what he says is a "sacred grave" will be the most important discovery in the history of mankind.  Nearby, two local boys watch the whole endeavor, curious.  As they leave, they leave the hole they used to break into the fence wide open.  One of the boys, Pietari Kontio, asks his friend Juuso if he is ready to see Santa this year, to which Juuso replies that Santa is all a hoax.  Pietari, dismayed by this, begins to research Santa Claus and finds, in some rare texts, that the original Santa Claus was a demon who punished naughty children rather than rewarding good ones and that the legend has become twisted and made more into a fairy tale.  Pietari begins to suspect that the sacred grave must be the resting place of the real Santa and he has been trapped under the ice ever since angry villagers trapped him there hundreds of years ago.  Christmas day approaches and Pietari's father, a local reindeer herder, finds that all the reindeer that they had been hoping to herd and sell this year have been mysteriously killed and the men at the dig site have been killed.  Pietari becomes convinced that Santa has been revived and is wreaking havoc across the land.  Things take a turn however, when his father catches what appears to be the spitting image of Santa (you know, if Santa enjoyed biting off ears and looked evil) and decides to sell him back to the scientists to recoup the profits lost from the dead reindeer.

Rare Exports could honestly be a PG-13 horror film if not for all the full frontal old-man nudity in the film.  It had a charming child protagonist, a tame and yet creepy horror premise, and a delightfully action-packed fantasy finale that reminded me of older horror films that were child appropriate, like Poltergeist and Gremlins.  There wasn't nearly as much comedy in this film as there was in those others, but there is still a decent amount of lightness to break up the dark of the story.  I found myself equal parts enchanted by the fantasy elements and biting my nails from suspense.  And, despite the ridiculousness of the premise, I found myself really believing that I was seeing the REAL Santa Claus in this film (because of how sincerely they sold the idea) and it was not pretty.  In fact, the filmmakers wisely do not show Santa until the end and even then, his visage is shrouded in mystery.  If I had one criticism about the film, it is that it is too short.  The climax and falling action occurs too quickly and I would have liked to see a more-extended fight to the death or action sequence rather than the truncated ending that exists.  I do like the resolution tag, though, which darkly lampoons the commercialization and industrialization of things that are necessary for Christmas.  Reindeer, it seems, are quite an industry as are Christmas Trees, wreaths and all the other paraphernalia associated with the holiday.  I won't ruin the surprise, but needless to say the wit displayed at the end is very sharp.  Even if you don't enjoy Christmas horror, this could be a great film for you as it is much tamer and less horrifying than most...and you'll get points for watching a foreign film.  It's win, win!

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